Formula Pinochet: Chilean Lessons for Russian Liberal Reformers during the Soviet Collapse

Tobias Rupprecht

Journal of Contemporary History: Vol. 51, No. 1, Special Section: The Dark Side of Transnationalism (January 2016)

Numerous references to the Chilean military dictator Augusto Pinochet run through Soviet and Russian political discourse from the 1970s to the late 1990s. Official representations of Pinochet, a carefully constructed bogeyman of Soviet domestic and foreign propaganda, helped drive a wedge between Soviet dissidents and Western leftist intellectuals. Citizens of the late Soviet Union, however, creatively adapted and inverted the image of Pinochet to express their cynical contempt for their state’s ideology.

From the late 1980s, a veritable cult of the Communist-slayer developed among some of Russia’s new political, cultural and economic elites. His combination of authoritarian rule and a free market economy seemed to many the most viable means to overcome, once and for all, what they perceived as the remnants of a totalitarian system with an abysmal economic performance. Following the traces of Pinochet’s perception in Russia opens up a number of lines of inquiry into its contemporary history as it recalls both the constantly failing attempts at economic reforms in the late Soviet Union and the tragic history of Russian liberalism.

The Chilean lessons for Russian reformers also challenge a Westernization paradigm that has long dominated transformation studies of Russia and Eastern Europe in the 1980s and 1990s…

Robert Reich: Beware of this deadly mix: oligarchic economics and racist, nationalist populism

NB: Also relevant to the above argument is the following extract from my article The Lady Vanishes:

(Carl) Schmitt came to be dubbed the Nazi’s ‘crown jurist’. Since his ideas were a departure from the classical conservative animosity toward popular democracy, he clarified them by separating capitalism from liberal democracy. In the words of a scholar of Schmitt’s thought:

‘His response is especially revealing given the light it sheds on Schmitt’s views about plebiscitarianism and modern democracy and capitalism and state regulation. Here, political liberalism is systematically discarded, whereas some core features of economic liberalism are maintained. Capitalism and liberal democracy are separated: Schmitt’s economic model empowers capital by freeing it from the regulatory burdens of the democratic welfare state, while his plebiscitarianism drastically curtails genuine popular participation. What Schmitt provides here is nothing less than a political theory of authoritarian capitalism but one in which authoritarian political institutions are masked by an appearance of popular legitimacy.’ (William Scheuerman, 2020, p 113)